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  1. #1

    How to get started as a session musician.

    Hey,

    I'm young and learning jazz guitarist from London. I am really keen on becoming a session guitarist. I was wondering if anyone has any advice on how to become a session musician and also what is required of session musician.

    Anything will be really useful to me and I'm sure to others who feel the same way.

    Thanks

  2. #2
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    Carl Verheyen has made a good living as a studio guitarist. He wrote a book on being a studio guitarist.

    Guitar One Presents Studio City: Professional Session Recording for Guitarists: Carl Verheyen: 9781575603414: Amazon.com: Books

    Carl Verheyen was a friend of my older brother and I took lessons from him when I was about 8 and he was about 13. To this day he still calls me 'brother' or 'brother Frank'. A super nice guy. He was great then and is a monster now. Being a successful studio guitarist that makes a good living is tough. There might only be a handful of guitarists that make a really good living exclusively from being a studio guitarist.
    Last edited by fep; 11-25-2014 at 11:32 PM.
    B+
    Frank (aka fep)

  3. #3
    Hey fep,

    Thanks for the reply. I will definitely have to check out that book.

    All the best

  4. #4
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    How to get started as a session musician.

    I've done a fair amount of studio work as a guitarist but I don't think I'm anywhere near being a studio guitarist, really. It's a smaller and smaller breed. Most studio guitarists today have their own high quality recording rig at home with an assortment of guitars, amps, pedals bad sounds at the ready. Must be able to read well, though a lot of times reading isn't required, but for those that it is you don't want to be caught flat footed.

    You must be well versed in a variety of styles and know how to communicate with the client or producer over what is wanted and needed. You have to understand the sounds he wants better than he does. Hopefully try and provide something that'll get him excited so he might abandon his idea and go for yours, but don't be insistent. You're there to give him or her what they want, not what you want. Someone who is there to make the music sound better rather than themselves will always have a good chance of success. I've failed here a few times. You know, trying to sound good as a player rather than make the song sound killer in its own context. Know what is needed for THE SONG.

    Understand structure and pop music, funk, R&B, country, jazz, folk, alternative, hip hop. Try to listen as much as possible. A lot of these guys will say, "We want that thing that Botch Evers does with The Squeezy Bobs on Rivers are always wider than Widths!" And you should have some sense of reference or just great ability to bullshit.
    Last edited by henryrobinett; 11-25-2014 at 09:50 PM.

  5. #5
    What's the studio scene like in London?

    All i know is Nashville, where like 3 or 4 different guys are essentially responsible for the guitar parts on every single record...
    Jeff Matz, Jazz Guitar:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/jeffreymatz

    "Jazz is like life...it goes on longer than you think, and as soon as you're like 'oh, I get it,' it ends."

    --The Ghost of Duke Ellington

  6. #6
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    todays studio players are a mixed breed of skill/styles..i did studio work in los angeles years ago-a lot of rock/blues..then jazz flavored things..

    studio or not..learn to sigh read!! a tool you will be ever thankful for learning!

    In LA now..some of my friends are working on major movie soundtracks..alot of classical musicians doing that also..they want "professional" players .. think John Williams stuff..

    not much call for "demo" stuff..easy access to home recording equipment..with near studio sound..

    its a rough business your wanting to get into..good luck
    play well ...
    wolf

  7. #7
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    Old friends seem to be doing more sessions these days, they are big names and went through a long slow period. It seems to be mainly singer-songwriter types that are recording in studios again. The old studio work for most part is gone with modern technology digital music libraries and etc TV and movies most is done in home studios. They take some digital library music and then record one or two real instruments on top of it and sound like whole thing was real.

    Then with internet even the orchestra players are hurting because a lot work is going to European orchestra that are good players and cost way less. TV is using more and more canned music or done again by writer/arrangers at home and insane deadlines like in hours for some background cues for a entertainment news show.

    Then stuff they used to be done is studios is just files being shipped to musicians to lay their tracks on and shipped back. So even with the skills the hardest part is breaking into that click of musicians. Like someone else mentions Nashville there is a small group of musicians who do almost all the work, breaking in is real tough.

    Today to make a living as a musician you can just be one thing like a studio musician, you need to be able to go whatever direction that pays. That could be teaching, arranging/composing, leader/MD, touring, home studio recording, doubling on related instruments, and so on.

    That's the way it is in all fields now and part of why I'm even backed away from computer industry, used to be if good at programming a couple languages your set, now they want people with laundry lists of skills and can pickup new skills practically over night. That's the world were in and your competition is now worldwide and not just local anymore.

  8. #8
    Some good advice from Steve Lukather here. But he's said many times in recent years there's very little work to be had or the pay is too low to be worth his time. Steve Lukather Official Website - Steve Lukather - Session stories

  9. #9
    That's a great read. Thanks for the link.

    The recording industry has changed, that is fact.
    There is probably more music being recorded than ever.
    Between all the indie productions, the multitude of TV stations, computer games scores, commercials, etc.
    So much happening at home studios, so having at least a basic pro recording setup would be essential for
    someone seeking a recording career. First off, to practice recording to become seriously comfortable with the experience. Also, you can create a recording portfolio while waiting to be hired.
    Having the ability to record and send at least your own tracks I would say is required and those able to do full productions are at an advantage. At this point many people at least have the equipment to do so.

    It is not fair to judge "pay scale" by the wages earned by Lukather and Ritenour.
    They worked the top of the food chain gigs. Back down in the valley there is still some work to be had that can be had that provides a days pay for those of us who live simply.

    Being a good side person often leads to recording work every 2-4 years when it's time for a new release.
    Being known by producers, music directors and recording engineers helps.
    Don Sebesky said he played in big bands as a conduit to building work opportunities as an arranger.

  10. #10
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    Plain and simple. There is not enough work for existing studio cats to make a living, get in line behind them for a job.

  11. #11
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    I think there are also more questions to be asked based on your original post:

    1) What exactly do you mean by making a living? How much would that really require? Is it just you or do you have a family to support?

    2) What kind of work have you done locally to sit in with other active musicians and show them that you can really add to whatever they are doing?

    3) Are you good at networking and are people excited to talk about you after you have worked with them? How many local recordings are you on or can you get yourself on? They may pay less, but it's experience and you're truly stating to build your name.

    I don't claim to be an expert on this subject, but I whenever I hear or read about anyone hoping to "make-it" I always wonder how much they have done to be the talk of the town locally. Everyone has to start somewhere, and I think ones local market is a GREAT place to gain experience and gain valuable training to help determine if this is really what you want to be doing. I love playing just like anyone else, but I tend to think there is A LOT more to doing session work than just playing (you need to build a rep and promote yourself, network, get good at working in a studio, build your own home studio and know how to get truly professional tones out of it, possibly learn to sight read, etc., etc., etc.), and I think that doing what you need to to truly "make-it" even in your local market will teach anyone a lot and help them determine if this is really what they even want to be doing.

    Just another group of things to think about and ask ones self. And none of it meant to be negative.

  12. #12
    In the US there isn't much going on with studio work that I know of. I would imagine there's some work for people that can sight read really well like with classical. Things are very specialized now. If you have a knack for being able to get a kick and bass line to sit in a mix just right you could make a name for yourself maybe. There might be a market for people with a variety of skills that can get things done quickly.
    I don't know for sure. I turned down studio work when there were offers because I don't like to record. That was a very long time ago in the 80's.
    As far as London, I have no clue. Never been to Europe. It would be pretty arrogant for me to say what it's going to be like in your country. If you want to learn about how it used to be in the US definitely read the Steve Lukather article. He seems like a very cool guy who's been there.
    On this site Henry has done plenty of studio work.

    If you're serious about it I'd say learn to play other instruments. Learn electric bass. Reading would be a big help with a lot of genres. Knowing how to make something sound the same on any sound system or listening device would be a good skill to have. It's about the low-end. You'll have to deal with the volume wars which are still going on.
    My opportunities for studio work were a result of playing R&B. I would highly recommend Paul Jackson Jr.'s 'The Science of Rhythm Guitar'. It's not cheap but you get what you pay for. It's worth it just to see Paul and Ray Parker do a little jam at the end. Two masters with very different styles. Study the whole video closely and find out what kind of rhythm player you are. I'm the Paul Jackson type. Ray Parker is the natural. The performer. You feel his chops as much as hear them.

    Get this video;

    "The Science of Rhythm Guitar"

  13. #13
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    I have a couple of friends who make a good living as studio musicians arranging and playing all instruments for commercials, TV programs etc... They record everything at home. They used to play in touring bands but got tired of that life and now they don't even have a band.

    I had another friend doing basically the same for a local TV in London. He didn't like it so he left the job and has been playing in a tribute band every single day for the last 15 years or so.

    I love the music but I hate the music biz so even having toured, recorded and played a lot I always had a day job.

    So, I would try to keep an open mind and try different things until you find what is good FOR YOU.

  14. #14
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    wow, this was a VERY old thread.....

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Rufes View Post
    wow, this was a VERY old thread.....
    I wonder how the kid made out?
    "As for me, all I know is that I know nothing." - Socrates
    “Man suffers only because he takes seriously what the gods made for fun.” - Alan Wilson Watts

  16. #16
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    Now he is a lawyer.... lol

  17. #17
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    be born in 1940...

  18. #18
    Horseshoe installer, railroad conductor, mainframe computer operator, blacksmith, Pony Express rider, studio musician, jazz musician, etc.
    "As for me, all I know is that I know nothing." - Socrates
    “Man suffers only because he takes seriously what the gods made for fun.” - Alan Wilson Watts

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Drumbler View Post
    Horseshoe installer, railroad conductor, mainframe computer operator, blacksmith, Pony Express rider, studio musician, jazz musician, etc.
    ... typesetter, stock broker, travel agent, Radio Shack franchisee ... but I agree with the statement that players with a solid reputation in town and a good online presence can get work. At least that is what I've observed with my teacher. He is doing studio sessions regularly (though fewer), and also doing sessions remotely. His ability to read a chart and nail his part in one-pass is well-known and he gets calls from bands and producers in other cities in the region to sit-in. That is a point Luke makes in his biography about his session work.
    Last edited by 3rdwaverider; 01-09-2019 at 11:23 AM.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by henryrobinett View Post
    I've done a fair amount of studio work as a guitarist but I don't think I'm anywhere near being a studio guitarist, really. It's a smaller and smaller breed. Most studio guitarists today have their own high quality recording rig at home with an assortment of guitars, amps, pedals bad sounds at the ready. Must be able to read well, though a lot of times reading isn't required, but for those that it is you don't want to be caught flat footed.

    You must be well versed in a variety of styles and know how to communicate with the client or producer over what is wanted and needed. You have to understand the sounds he wants better than he does. Hopefully try and provide something that'll get him excited so he might abandon his idea and go for yours, but don't be insistent. You're there to give him or her what they want, not what you want. Someone who is there to make the music sound better rather than themselves will always have a good chance of success. I've failed here a few times. You know, trying to sound good as a player rather than make the song sound killer in its own context. Know what is needed for THE SONG.

    Understand structure and pop music, funk, R&B, country, jazz, folk, alternative, hip hop. Try to listen as much as possible. A lot of these guys will say, "We want that thing that Botch Evers does with The Squeezy Bobs on Rivers are always wider than Widths!" And you should have some sense of reference or just great ability to bullshit.
    I ran across this video that is right in line with what Henry is saying:

    B+
    Frank (aka fep)

  21. #21
    I’ve done a fair bit of that work (not for anyone you’ve heard of), and it is a different animal.


    Things like breathing control. Think you can just strum that last chord and breathe normally? Nope.

    Sitting perfectly still. A professional mic pick up EVERYTHING.

    understanding of headphone mixes, bleed, playing with a click track, etc, etc.





    there isn’t another answer besides get your own small recording rig and get to work. Learn the tools of the trade and with time you’ll find your productions improving steadily. Just keep at it until your tracks sound polished.

  22. #22
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    I wonder what became of him?

    I often have young players asking how to break into sessions.... I try to explain to them that I'm a stupid jazz guitarist, and although I would sell out, no-one's buying.

    The only thing anyone wants from me is to go 'dun-chuck dun-chuck' on the occasional thing....

    Most of my friends seem to get loads of sessions, so maybe ask them haha... The violinist I work with just goes and does Glastonbury with ELO and it's no big deal. So maybe the first answer is don't play the guitar?

    I think London is a good place to get work. After March, we'll see.

  23. #23
    Things have changed.
    One of the other guitarists in my band is a first-call jazz session guy in the Kansas City market.
    He gets called first, and recently, mostly says "No."
    Why?
    Because with the new digital stuff, Pro tools, etc., session time is no longer expensive.
    That's a good thing, right? What's the problem with that?
    Session time is no longer VALUABLE.
    Meaning that he gets there, no one is ready, they sit and wait around for HOURS, sometimes "come back tomorrow."
    Often times the "session" is at somebody's house.
    Who needs it?

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    I wonder what became of him?

    I often have young players asking how to break into sessions.... I try to explain to them that I'm a stupid jazz guitarist, and although I would sell out, no-one's buying.

    The only thing anyone wants from me is to go 'dun-chuck dun-chuck' on the occasional thing....

    Most of my friends seem to get loads of sessions, so maybe ask them haha... The violinist I work with just goes and does Glastonbury with ELO and it's no big deal. So maybe the first answer is don't play the guitar?

    I think London is a good place to get work. After March, we'll see.
    I was chatting to some of my teachers about this the other day. My ongoing degree is in popular music performance with guitar as my main instrument -- in short, I'm getting a "session player" education.

    Anyway, the teachers were preaching about plugging straight into an amp and do any gig like that, but I didn't agree. Young guys like me that moved from the other side of the country don't have a network, so we just got to take every gig and give them the cliché guitar part AND SOUND they want (hence the big digital boards). It's only after getting a good enough contact network that you can start jazzing it up. Besides, I can't compete with the likes of Bjørn Vidar Solli, Jens Thoresen, Gisle Torvik, Staffan William-Olsson, Jojje Wadenius, and countless other local jazz guitarists anyways. Those dudes are full-time jazzers and got cred. I'm just some dude from nothingville with a funny dialect who's got things to prove.

    When it comes to those "home studio" type sessions, I quite like them. It's easy to plan, because you don't have to take "office hours" into account. If sunday evening's good for both of us, it's great. Maybe we can order some pizza too!
    Also, the ease and accessibility of recording equipment today means that if someone wants me to do any overdubs, I can just have them bounce out an mp3 of the unmixed product with a click (I also usually ask for kbds, bass, & drums to be boosted if they can), and to the dubs at home with my board.

    It's both so easy and so hard at the same time... Just gotta know the right people, I guess

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marwin Moody View Post
    I was chatting to some of my teachers about this the other day. My ongoing degree is in popular music performance with guitar as my main instrument -- in short, I'm getting a "session player" education.

    Anyway, the teachers were preaching about plugging straight into an amp and do any gig like that, but I didn't agree. Young guys like me that moved from the other side of the country don't have a network, so we just got to take every gig and give them the cliché guitar part AND SOUND they want (hence the big digital boards). It's only after getting a good enough contact network that you can start jazzing it up. Besides, I can't compete with the likes of Bjørn Vidar Solli, Jens Thoresen, Gisle Torvik, Staffan William-Olsson, Jojje Wadenius, and countless other local jazz guitarists anyways. Those dudes are full-time jazzers and got cred. I'm just some dude from nothingville with a funny dialect who's got things to prove.

    When it comes to those "home studio" type sessions, I quite like them. It's easy to plan, because you don't have to take "office hours" into account. If sunday evening's good for both of us, it's great. Maybe we can order some pizza too!
    Also, the ease and accessibility of recording equipment today means that if someone wants me to do any overdubs, I can just have them bounce out an mp3 of the unmixed product with a click (I also usually ask for kbds, bass, & drums to be boosted if they can), and to the dubs at home with my board.

    It's both so easy and so hard at the same time... Just gotta know the right people, I guess
    Everything I get is through personal contacts

  26. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by ronjazz View Post
    be born in 1940...
    I was about to type the exact same sentence.

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